FAFSA Completions Improving, Still a Massive Problem

The FAFSA completion drop compared to last year improved from 39% to 24% in a four week period

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Just over three weeks ago, we published a post visualizing the drop in FAFSA completions at the state level, as of March 29th for 2023 and 2024. In a nutshell:

  • Nationwide, 39-40% fewer students had completed their FAFSA applications in 2024 than for the same period in 2023;

  • The best performing state (lowest drop in FAFSA completions) was North Dakota at 27%; and

  • The worst performing state was California at 46%.

The US Department of Education (ED) and its Federal Student Aid (FSA) office have published updated data as of April 26th, and I thought it would be useful to see what progress has been made. The short answer:

  • Overall FAFSA completion drops have improved from 39% to 24%;

  • The best performing state is Indiana at 8%;

  • The worst performing states are Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida at 32%;

  • The biggest change is for Indiana, which moved more than 21% (from 29% to 8%); and

  • The smallest changes are for New Mexico, Montana, Utah, and Alaska which all moved 10%.

Note that the data release is a reporting tool for high schools provided by ED and is for students 19 and younger, and thus it does not include non-traditional first-time applications, which might be in even worse situation. Also note that the data don’t take into account drops in FAFSA completions for returning students.

Map View

The following view uses the same color coding, showing both data as of March 29th (top) and as of April 26th (bottom).

Arrow Chart

The following view shows both the before (as of March 29th) FAFSA drop per state as well as the after (as of April 26th, with arrowhead), showing the improvements for each state.

Overall Sense

We still have a massive problem with FAFSA completions down 24% from last year. And this doesn’t take into account the delays in award letters from schools due to the late ED processing and how that might impact students choosing to take financial aid offers.

But, there is real progress being made in the four weeks from March 29th to April 26th.

Maybe more states should figure out what Indiana is doing. Their secret is not just requiring FAFSA completion for graduation, as Oklahoma improved just 11% (they also have that requirement).

We’ll update the charts as new data come in.

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